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  New aid measures set for jobless workers

Amid waves of job losses worldwide, China has embarked on measures to minimize them and pledged to boost employment this year.

The financial crisis continues to hurt the fourth largest economy and has pushed many enterprises to make layoffs.

The following provinces are among many in the country, East China in particular, that have striven to stabilize their job markets.

Yangtze River Delta

Yangtze River Delta, a manufacturing center, was hit exceptionally hard. Unemployment in the manufacturing sector stood at 41.43 percent of the total in Zhejiang province in the third quarter, a record low in recent years.

The same situation occurred with manufacturers in eastern Jiangsu province with unemployment in the sector accounting for 50.15 percent of the total, down 0.94 percentage point over the same period last year, and down 4.16 percentage point from the second quarter.

To cushion the blow, the Yangtze Delta has set up an early warning system to monitor the job situation. At present, six cities including Nanjing, Hangzhou and Ningbo are the trial areas.

The system is designed for regional labor and social security offices to collect employment information, such as possible job cuts and plans for new employees in the following week and the actual cuts.

Zhejiang province will do this in 11 cities this year.

At the end of November, Zhejiang also cut back enterprises' payments of social security funds for employees to mitigate the businesses' burden.

Another focus for most cities in the region is to encourage people to start businesses. Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces pledge to provide favorable incentives, including free job training for laid-off workers.

Officials and experts said the region expects a tougher job picture in the first quarter of this year as the global financial turmoil continues to spread.

Shanghai has launched programs to provide graduates and migrant workers with subsidies for skill training. On Dec 30, the first employment service base was set up in Shanghai for graduates to gain internship experiences.

The Shanghai municipal government also encouraged business start-ups to increase jobs. The city pledged to limit the registered unemployment rate to below 4.5 percent.

Across the nation

The eastern Fujian province has rolled out plans to help graduates from poor families who have difficulty in finding jobs. A service center for human resources in Fujian, and Fujian University of Technology have decided to jointly spend 120,000 yuan to aid the graduates. The university has signed with more than 30 companies to establish internship base.

The provincial government will also conduct check-ups on enterprises that intend to apply for 20 job cuts in 2009.

Jiangxi province is set to provide migrant workers with free vocational training. As of Jan. 1, 26,000 migrant workers were reemployed or started their own businesses.

The provinces of Gansu, Anhui, Hebei, Jilin and many others have adopted measures on unemployment, including training programs and loan expansion.

Provinces are set to roll out their own stimulus measures in 2009, to create more jobs.

Zhejiang province plans to inject 60 billion yuan in transportation infrastructure construction in 2009. It's estimated that every 100 million yuan investment in highways would create 1,800 direct jobs and 2,100 indirect jobs, according to the National Development and Reform Commission. That was only part of the stimulus measures in the region. Jiangxi province will invest 600 billion yuan into fixed assets such as highways, railways, airports and water projects, which will bring about one million jobs.

Investment will hit 1.2 trillion yuan in agriculture, transport, energy and urban construction in Henan province. Jiang Duyun, director of the provincial department of education, said the measures would "definitely" be beneficial for graduates majoring in such fields.

Fujian province will spend 170 billion yuan on manufacturing industries, and the western Gansu province plans 16.5 billion yuan for transport facilities and infrastructure.

Those are only part of the whole stimulus plans carried out by provinces in 2009.

"The governments are doing what they should do and these measures will prop up employment in the long run", said Wang Dewen, a labor economist from China Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

He added China now was going through industrial restructuring with new and more advanced enterprises emerging, which would demand employees with specialized skills and knowledge.

"Migrant workers are the worst hit groups and vocational training will be necessary to equip them with skills and knowledge which would qualify them for better jobs", Wang said.

According to a December report from CASS, the registered unemployment rate was estimated at 10 percent.

"With this series of measures kicking in, the job situation would be easier than expected in the second half of this year", Wang said.

The central government kicked off a stimulus package of 4 trillion yuan in last November to buoy economic growth, which, analysts agreed, would boost employment. Part of the investment had been earmarked before the package was rushed out.

Yang Yansui, a specialist in labor law and the director of the employment and Social Security Center of Tsinghua University, said the country's 4-trillion-yuan stimulus plan would create only temporary jobs. More investment should go to the public service sector, which would bring long-term and sustainable jobs.

The Minister of Human Resources and Social Security Yin Weimin said on Dec 29 that China vowed to create 9 million new jobs in urban districts this year, 1 million fewer than last year's target. The registered urban unemployment rate will be kept under 4.6 percent.

The Chinese urban unemployment rate from 2003 to 2007 was lower than 4.3 percent, but the target for 2008 was set at 4.5 percent because of the severe employment situation.

Yu Faming, director of MHRSS employment promotion department, said the oversupply of labor would be more severe this year with 24 million people seeking jobs, mainly including 13 million new urban jobseekers and 8 million laid-off workers.

   
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